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Reasonable Itinerary
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Chris Roane
(chrisroane) - MLife

Locale: North Rockies
Reasonable Itinerary on 05/20/2010 15:14:01 MDT Print View

So I'm planning a trip to the Absorka-Beartooths in the Lake Plateau region in Montana. This trip would be in early August.

The dilemma I am faced with is how much hiking I can expect the group to go in the first two days. The thought process is that if we can hike 11-12 miles on day #1 and then again on day #2, we would free up an extra night on the trip to do whatever we want.

You can see the route and elevation gain, with this itinerary here:

Day #1 would be about 11.55 miles with a total elevation gain of about 3,200 ft.

Day #2 would be about 11.01 miles, with 1,000 ft of elevation gain...but we probably will have to do some bushwhacking if we can't find a trail.

Everyone is training for this trip (I'm running 3 miles 3-4 times per week and doing strength training), and I am telling them that this is a strenuous trip.

Is this a reasonable itinerary...based on the mileage/elevation gain? My pack will weigh about 25 lbs, but there are some professional photographers on the trip who will have packs in the 40-45 lbs range.

We could spread the first two days into three days, but that extra night is tempting!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Reasonable Itinerary on 05/20/2010 16:01:54 MDT Print View

Chris this is highly subjective. You will be limited by the slowest person in your group. 12 miles with 3,500 elevation gain shouldn't be too difficult for most people. But what is your starting elevation? Some people do poorly at 5,000' or higher.

This is a matter of everyone knowing their body, which is gained by hiking experience. Some people could do that first day in 6 hours or much less, others it would take 12 hours and they would be very sore the next day. Others can do both legs in one day with time to spare.

Craig W and I are planning a strenuous trip in a couple of weeks, and another person with little experience is going with us. About a month ago, I encouraged this 3rd person to do a hike of 9,000' elevation gain/loss on the trail as a precursor. Then a couple of weeks ago a hike of 10 miles with a gain of 8,000. He did both well, and I am now comfortable taking him on the trip. I feel that if I take someone on a trip, that may not be able to do it, then that person becomes my responsibility. Craig I am not worried about, he will kick my butt :)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Reasonable Itinerary on 05/20/2010 16:21:52 MDT Print View

I've backpacked with lots of people for whom 11 miles in one day seemed almost impossible. But I managed to get them there. How?

I simply got them on the trail earlier and earlier in the morning. Too many people have lead in their boots until 10 a.m., and they can't make it. I get them on the trail by 8 a.m. or earlier. For some long solo trips, I have started at 6 a.m.

It is all mind over matter.


John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Reasonable Itinerary on 05/20/2010 16:53:52 MDT Print View

I'd want to get an idea of each trip participants ability to see if someone could handle that 12 mile/3500 ft/gain day. That is a hard day for the average hiker.

That brings up a good idea about screening questions to ask hikers to get an idea of their ability. What five questions would you ask?

1. How long have you been backpacking?
2. Tell me about your last backpacking trip (when, where, what elevations, how many days, how many miles/day)
3. On your previous backpacking trips, are you usually hiking in the front of the group or the back?
4. What is your approximate backpack weight on a three day trip, without food and water?
5. What is the farthest distance you have hiked in a single day while on a backpacking trip (with all of your gear), not a dayhike?

Edited by jshann on 05/20/2010 16:55:17 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Reasonable Itinerary on 05/20/2010 18:32:51 MDT Print View

One factor not mentioned is altitude.

Are all your party Montanans or are some coming from lower altitudes? If they are coming from lower down, that 3200 feet elevation gain is going to make some of them pretty sick, if it's anywhere near the total gain. Total gain per day between sleeping spots shouldn't be more than 1,000 feet for those not acclimatized. Those coming from low altitudes should also expect to spend a few days in Montana before the actual trip to get started on acclimatization.

Chris Roane
(chrisroane) - MLife

Locale: North Rockies
Great Info on 05/20/2010 21:43:52 MDT Print View

For years I've been one of the weakest links in the trips I go on, and so I definitely understand that I don't want to get anyone to the point of exhaustion.

Nick: The starting elevation of the hike is around 6500, and the first night we camp is at about 9500 ft.

Bob: That is a great plan! The tricky part is that it will take about 3.5 hours to get to the trail head. But we should still be able to be on the trail by 8 AM.

John: Great questions! My experience with people who live in Montana, as long as they are physically active and working out, I've never had any issues.

Mary: You bring up a good point. Everyone, except for one person lives in Montana. The other guy going on the trip lives in Minneapolis...which appears to be about 900 ft about sea level. I didn't think of this, because I've never been on a trip with anyone where altitude sickness was an issue. But it looks like this could be a major problem....even if we take the easier route.

He is flying in late the night before we leave. Is there anything we can do to prevent altitude sickness for this guy?

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Altitude Sickness on 05/20/2010 23:13:25 MDT Print View

A lot of things affect whether one suffers from this, but in general it'd be best if the person traveling from sea level slept at 6500 feet the night before heading up to 9000. That sort of elevation gain does not usually cause altitude sickness, but if you're very concerned, you can ask them to get a prescription for Diamox. It works. Very well, in my experience, and will at least provide some security that they won't suffer. But of course you must still take all precautions. No over exertion. Plenty of sleep. Stay hydrated. Abstain from alcohol, tobacco, sleeping pills and other depressants. Etc. Doing those things are probably sufficient, but I take Diamox when I'm going up to 10,000 feet just because I don't want to ruin a trip.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Reasonable Itinerary on 05/21/2010 00:35:28 MDT Print View

What you have not stated is whether this is on a trail or cross-country in alpine territory, whether the people going are reasonably fit. There's a world of difference possible.

Day 1: 18 km and 1,000 m - quite reasonable on a trail for a fit party.

Day 2: much less - ditto, even if off-trail in fair country.

Keeping pack weight down will help enormously too.


Chris Roane
(chrisroane) - MLife

Locale: North Rockies
Response on 05/21/2010 07:14:07 MDT Print View

Nate: The guy from Minneapolis is an ER physician, and so he may know more about this stuff than me. I'll bring it up to him. It doesn't sound like sleeping at 6500 feet the night before is going to be an option, since his flight gets into billings at 10 PM. But he will be sleeping in Billings, which is at a higher altitude than Minneapolis.

My dad is also a physician and mentioned Diamox, so that it probably one of the better options.

Roger: Day 1 will be on trails. Half of day 2 will be on trails, but I'm expecting the trails on the 2nd half to get sketchy, if they exist at all (but there is a lot less elevation gain on day #2). Everyone is supposed to be training for this trip.

Weather could also change this. Having to hop around puddles not only slows the group down, but adds a lot of exertion.

Thanks for your responses!